It’s a small gesture, but a good handshake really can make a difference, and now new research gives more insight into why.
The right handshake can improve your interactions with everyone from friends to dates to more casual settings, scientists say. “It can both increase the positive effect toward a favorable interaction and diminish the impact of a negative impression,” says Beckman Institute researcher Florin Dolcos.
Previous research has shown that handshakes can increase the perception of trust and formality of the relationship. And listen up ladies: Initiating a handshake increases the sense of security when making risky financial decisions.
The key is a firm, confident yet friendly handshake, says Beckman Institute department of psychology postdoctoral research associate Sanda Dolcos. "Many of our social interactions may go wrong for a reason or another, and a simple handshake preceding them can give us a boost and attenuate the negative impact of possible misunderstandings."
The researchers also recommend paying attention to the nonverbal cues you're sending. Remember in the 2005 movie Hitch when Will Smith says that 60 percent of all human communication is nonverbal and 30 percent is your tone?
"Most of what you're saying isn't coming out of your mouth," Florin Dolcos says. "Our study provides scientific evidence for the importance of nonverbal behavior in drawing inferences about others. Subtle cues conveyed through body language or physical touch, such as a handshake or a gentle touch on the shoulder, prepare the perceiver for adaptive actions."
And be honest, they say. Be aware of your non-verbal cues—but not at the expense of being yourself.
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.